Content warning: This post deals with eating disorders, and could be triggering for some readers.
"Get a head start on your summer body..."
My phone buzzed, and I looked down to see an unsolicited marketing text from a major gym chain, not unlike the hundreds I’ve received over the years.
Except for some reason, this one really bothered me.
It wasn’t touting the health benefits of movement, the community found in gym culture, or the satisfaction there is to be gained by improving your physical strength. This text went straight for the fat phobic jugular, and I would almost respect their candour if I wasn’t so deeply troubled by it.
Watch: The horoscopes working out. Post continues below.
Has the industry remained unchanged in the nearly 15 years since I showed up for my first shift on the gym floor?
The truth is, movement is actually one of the best things you can do for your overall health. And lifelong friendships, self-esteem and physical confidence can all be built in a gym. But despite those very tangible, life enhancing benefits, we’re still being sold a fantasy because the reality is much less bankable.
While in the early stages of recovery from anorexia nervosa, I discovered the guilt I had been harbouring for playing a role in that fantasy.
As a personal trainer, my body was my calling card. Unsurprisingly, my Instagram was filled with gym mirror selfies and workout routines.
It was only in my eating disorder recovery that I started to understand the potential harm my 'fitspo' had caused.
I had been one of the figures on that platform, reinforcing the thinness myth - the idea that thinness is attainable for everybody if you only work hard enough.
Granted, my following was modest and I considered most of my engagement to be manufactured, but I saw the comments from real women on my photos, like "you are body goals" and "that bod tho" and felt perturbed and fraudulent.
I knew what I was doing to have a body like mine, and yet I allowed my clients to believe it was just a result of the workouts I was teaching.
But as fitness professionals, do we have a duty of care that goes beyond our clients’ physical wellbeing? At what point do recommendations for dietary restriction and overexercise become negligent?
As a person who suffered with anorexia nervosa for the better part of a decade, our cultural obsession with demonising fat has done me immeasurable harm. But perhaps worse is the harm that I was, undoubtably, passing on to others.